11 Mar 2016

Red Bull Air Race 2016: FAI at the heart of safety

The Red Bull Air Race World Championship kicked off today with a spectacular race in the sky above Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. The race is the first of eight events that will take place this year, making the Red Bull Air Race the pre-eminent international air race circuit in the world.

The FAI President, Dr John Grubbström was in the UAE to see the race. “These are some of the best pilots in the world and it’s a pleasure to watch them fly here in Abu Dhabi,” he said. “We are very happy to be here, helping ensure Red Bull Air Race run a safe and fair competition.”

The FAI helps the Red Bull Air Race in several ways, including the provision of medals specially designed for the race, official approval of the race Rules and Regulations, inclusion of all races in the FAI calendar, and a safety delegate who attends all Red Bull Air Race events.

Speaking on the morning of Friday 11 March FAI Safety Delegate Ben A F Ruijs (pictured above) said he was happy to be in Abu Dabi for the first race.

“My role is to supervise all the safety relevant aspects of the Red Bull Air Race from the perspective of the FAI. Red Bull Air Race make the regulations and I check them. If I have comments I make them on behalf of the FAI. The Red Bull Air Race has the full responsibility for the whole competition”

He added: “I’m looking at the aircraft if they are fit to fly, and if the pilots are fit to fly. All the safety aspects, plus to see if it’s fair. In short, we check on the safety and we also check that Red Bull Air Race are complying with their own regulations.”

FAI involvement is key to helping make the Red Bull Air Race fair and transparent. The FAI act as an objective eye, devoid of commercial, political or partisan considerations.

“In one word, the FAI adds quality,” explained Ruijs. A former Chief of Flight Safety in the Dutch Air Force, Ruijs has been FAI Safety Delegate to the Red Bull Air Race since 2008. This year he will attend six of the eight Red Bull Air Races around the world, while his FAI colleague, Fredy Ramseier, a former Lieutenant Colonel in the Swiss Air Force, will attend the other two.

Safety-wise, what elements is he looking for? “You watch out that pilots are in full control. That they know what is going to happen, that they are proficient and that they are anticipating what is coming … If pilots are flying erratically or are behind the power curve – that is, reacting a little bit late – then you have to do something about it.”

What is it like acting as the bridge between the FAI and the Red Bull Air Race? “First of all Red Bull is very professional, very disciplined. They only have the best pilots, so in this way I have an easy job. But because I am standing aside and am not involved in the decision making process then sometimes I can help. We do it together.”

The Red Bull Air Race will visit eight locations this year, including Abu Dhabi, Spielberg in Austria, Chiba in Japan, Budapest in Hungary, Ascot in the UK, the Lausitzring in Germany, Indianapolis in the USA and Las Vegas, USA.